Braised and Beefless Spaghetti Bolognese

May 18, 2011 by

Since it was a rainy Sunday, I decided to make a family favorite ‘Braised Spaghetti Bolognese’ made with ground chicken. Why wait for a rainy Sunday? Even though this dish requires about 30 minutes of active participation, it achieves a velvety and rich texture when it is cooked on the stove top over the mildest flame. During the 3 hours of a mild simmer, ingredients break down to the point of assuming new characters and the meat, vegetables aromatics and a few little secret ingredients become indistinguishable. The Result: A roasted and intensely flavored sauce, slightly gelatinous in texture, perfectly coating every strand of spaghetti on your plate.

I would love to lap up all the credit for this dish but the reality is that it has been influenced by natives whom I do not know or have spent very little time with. Sonia’s friend, Rosita from Tuscany taught me to braise the meat, Alina’s friend made me swear never to open the saucepan lid for at least 2 hours once the tomatoes were added and the Italiana at Williams Sonoma who mentioned how a pinch of ground cumin is her secret ingredient. So many trade secrets and so much drama, could it get any better? I hope you enjoy this decadent Bolognese sauce as much as me and my family always do.


Aromatic herbs: ¼ tsp of: Crushed rosemary, thyme, fennel seeds, Oregano, chilli flakes and cumin
¼ cup olive oil
1 Medium grated onion
3 cloves garlic
2lb ground chicken
½ lb cherry tomatoes
2 grated celery stalks
2 medium grated carrots
1 cup of warm whole milk
5oz red wine
Salt and pepper


1. Heat a pan, add ¼ cup of olive oil and toast the aromatic herbs, then add onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until soft
2. Add the carrots and celery and sweat until they soften. Remove ½ the vegetables and set aside. On high heat, add the ground chicken and flatten so that most of it touches the pan. Avoid moving the meat so that it can get a golden crust and then flip to cook the other side.Season with salt and pepper and break apart until it is somewhat ground again, continue to brown
3. Deglaze the pan to remove the ‘brown bits’ with the red wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated
4. Add the remaining cooked vegetables and combine well
5. Give the tomatoes a quick whizz in the blender and add to the pan with ¼ cup of water. Cook on a low simmer for 2 hours without opening the lid
6. After 2 hours, add 1 cup of hot milk and cook for another hour
7. When you are ready to serve, cook the pasta just less than al dente and reserve ½ the starchy water. Add the starchy water to the meat sauce and 1 cup of parmiggiano reggiano, check the seasoning
8. Finish cooking the pasta in the meat sauce and serve

Pearls of Wisdom

Make sure the meat sauce is a little dry before you add the starch water. DO NOT skip on the starch water step as it adds creaminess in a creamless dish as well as making the sauce latch on to the strands of pasta.

Serving Suggestions

Top with a final sprinkle of fresh parsley and parmiggiano reggiano.

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